We hear a lot in the media about natural alternatives to the flu vaccine, natural antibiotics and immune boosters. Is this a thing? Do natural alternatives exist?

Yes, they do and they have for centuries!! Naturopathic doctors and herbalists call these herbal medicines ‘anti-microbial’ NOT ‘antibiotic’. Meaning that they are typically able to fight a combination of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. They are not as potent as conventional medications but when you are coming down with something these are a great place to start. Or if you have over-used conventional drugs and they just aren’t working – this is a great place to turn!

'Natural Antibiotics'

‘Natural Antibiotics’

So, what are these ‘herbs’ and where can you find them? Some common anti-microbial herbs include:

  • Andrographis: Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-parasitic. Especially helpful in acute infections.
  • Barberry: Anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic
  • Black Walnut: Anti-worm Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea: Immune enhancing, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic
  • Golden Seal: Anti-catarrhal (anti-cough & congestion), mucous membrane restorative, anti-bacterial
  • Holy Basil: Immune enhancing
  • Olive Leaf: Immune enhancing
  • Oregon Grape Root: Immune enhancing

These are just a few herbs that your naturopath might make into a tea or ‘tincture’ (alcohol extract) to fight infection. Formulations can get even more specific. There are MANY other herbs specific to different systems such as the sinuses, lungs, stomach, intestines, urinary tract and skin. Getting the right herbal combo can really help to reset your internal balance. There are also some great herbal supplement combinations out there that can make a big difference and can live in your natural medicine cabinet until needed. These formulas are typically sold by ND recommendation only.

  • Berberis Forumla (Seroyal):  Historically, berberine has been used for its antimicrobial activity, as berberine is active against a wide range of organisms including bacterial viruses, fungi, helminths, and chlamydia. This can acutely help with many infections because of its broad anti-microbial activity. Although, I’ve seen best results clinically with sinus and lung infections, urinary tract infections as well as chronic acne that is infectious or ‘pus-filled’.
  • Andrographis Complex (Medi-Herb): Andrographis Complex is a combination of Andrographis leaf, Echinacea angustifolia root and Holy Basil. Andrographis extracts containing a known amount of andrographolides that support the healthy functioning of the upper respiratory tract. This includes the throat, sinuses and the lungs. Holy Basil and Echinacea support healthy immune function through enhancing immune fighting cells. This formula is most useful for infections of the sinus and respiratory tract. 
  • Anti-MFP Formula (Douglas Labs): This formula provides therapeutic doses of Berberine, Goldenseal, Citrus seed extract, Burdock, Black Walnut, and Olive leaf providing an effective treatment for infectious conditions. These botanicals have demonstrated ant-fungal , anti-parasitic and anti- microbial. Clinically, I’ve tended to lean towards this type of combination when trying to clear a fungal infection like Candida or Athlete’s Foot or parasitic infections causing Irritable Bowel or other digestive concerns. 

If you are experimenting with herbs, you can always buy single herbs or combinations at a health shop. Just keep in mind that there is a great body of traditional evidence and research that make some herbs more specific for certain symptoms. As well, therapeutic dosing is KEY! Not all supplement companies observe documented research on therapeutic dosing. Finding a licensed Naturopathic Doctor or Herbalist can sometimes make the difference between a herb working for you or not working for you. Remember, effective herbal medicine is about TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE, RESEARCH, THERAPEUTIC DOSE, QUALITY and CLINICAL EXPERIENCE.